Downsizing, Part I: Getting Started

Today we begin a three-part series on downsizing, a process that Professional Organizers are often called upon to assist with. Some clients downsize because their kids have flown the coop and they no longer need their big five-bedroom, three-bath house. Others reach a point in their lives where they just don't want the hassle of maintaining a big house and yard. And then there are those unfortunate souls who are forced to downsize because they can no longer live independently and must move into assisted living or nursing homes.

As we get older, keeping a handle on the volume of stuff we have in our homes is a challenge for even the most organized of families. And for families who have avid accumulators or chronically disorganized members, downsizing can feel downright overwhelming. Many of us have entered our parents' or grandparents' basements and asked, "What IS all of this stuff, and why are they keeping it?" Heck, you may have asked that very question about your own basement or garage.

If you are considering downsizing in the future, start now to take control of and responsibility for your belongings. Let go of what isn't serving you, what is broken, or what has negative feelings associated with it. Keep what you love, what has warm memories, and what serves your life in a positive way. Just make sure there will be room in your future smaller home for the items you decide to keep.

Here a few tips to help you or a family member get started:

  • Take one room at a time (or even one drawer at a time) and begin to set aside items that you don't use or don't love. Keep reminding yourself that your future home will be filled with only those items that add value to your life.
  • If you think a particular friend or relative would enjoy an item more than you, put a sticky note on it with their name. Later, call that person to confirm that they want the item. If they don't, add the item to your charity or sell pile.
  • If you have a consignment shop nearby, go ahead and take a few resalable items over and open up an account. Then, as you systematically go through the downsizing process, it will be quick and easy to drop things off. Also, most consignment stores can help you arrange pick up and delivery of larger pieces of furniture for resale. Before you know it, you'll start receiving consignment checks.
  • Throw away items that are broken and can't be easily and inexpensively fixed. Please resist the urge to keep broken items because you may use them later for "spare parts."
  • Start a donation box for your favorite charity.
  • Consider having a yard sale but know that this is a time-consuming, physically exhausting endeavor.
That's enough to at least inspire you to get started. I'll be providing more specific information about donation sources, consignment, Craig's list, and Ebay in Parts II and III of this series.

Cool Product: Travel Pack-It Folders

School's out and it's vacation time. That also means it's suitcase packing time. A really cool product to help you pack more efficiently is the Pack-It Folder from Eagle Creek. They keep everything from suits and jackets to shirts and slacks neatly folded and compact. And since garments are enclosed in the velcro-sealed pockets, they don't shift during travel, keeping them practically wrinkle-free.

The other neat thing about them is that they come with a little folding board that has graphics showing you the best way to fold different garments. While traveling, I keep my folding board in the packet so that I can re-fold any clean clothes I didn't use on the trip. (Yes, even I sometimes overpack. Gasp!)

I've been using all three sizes for a couple of years now and I LOVE them. I also got a couple for my husband but wasn't sure if he'd break his old packing routines and try them. Once he did, he was hooked! They make it so easy to find a particular garment if you are on the road for several days and don't want to have to unpack everything every time you arrive at your new hotel.

In between trips, I store my Travel Pack-It Folders in the suitcase I use most often. This follows the organizing principle that you should store items where you use them.

If you hurry, you may be able to get the Eagle Creek Pack-It Folders for 25% off from The Container Store during their travel sale!

Looking for Blue Eyes

I believe in the power of intention, that if you believe you can do something, you can. I ran across a fun story this morning about a little boy who believed he could do something extraordinary, though in his youthful exuberance he may not have realized it was extraordinary.

The boy, Nicholas Wagner of Chicago, found a one-in-a-million, blue-eyed cicada in his backyard last Friday. His kindergarten class had been studying the 17-year cicadas and he learned that a rare blue-eyed version existed. He told his parents that he was going to find one and he did! His mother told one reporter, "He's been looking for a long time."

What I find so inspiring about this story is that this little guy decided what he wanted, actively and passionately set out to get it, and kept going until his mission was accomplished. Many older, wiser individuals might assume something so elusive would be impossible to find or that it would take too much time and work. But little Nicholas Wagner didn't let those silly notions stop him from reaching his goal.

Is there something you want that you think would be impossible to achieve? Remember this little explorer the next time those doubts start creeping in.